Top 5 Fantasy Baseball Prospects
1- Trevor May, SP
May is the clear cut top prospect in the Phillies organization. The first thing that jumps off the stat page when looking at May's player card is his jaw dropping strikeout rate. Last year, at High-A, he had a 12.05 K/9. Just soak that in. Even when struggling at High-A in 2010 he had an 11.57 K/9. The biggest difference between 2011 and 2010 was that May tightened up his control. His 7.84 BB/9 in 2010 dropped to 4.05 BB/9 in 2011 at High-A.
May has a prototypical workhorse pitcher frame standing 6-foot-5 and weighing 215 pounds. He throws a 90-95 mph fastball with some natural movement coming from a three-quarters arm slot. The pitch is his best, and is the special type of four-seam fastball that actually misses bats. May's best secondary pitch is his curveball. He throws a change-up that shows promise and offers good velocity separation from his fastball sitting at 80-82 mph. According to Matt Forman of Baseball America, May added a slider that he threw in bullpen sessions in 2011. As if he didn't have enough weapons to work with, the slider would give him a fourth to embarrass hitters with. There are questions as to whether his control and command will ever be better than average, but he won't need them to be if he keeps striking out batters in bunches. May will open at Double-A. He struggled with High-A in his first exposure, so it will be interesting to see if it takes May a while to settle in at Double-A. He's only 22 years old, and thus, he has time if he falters moving up once again. If everything goes smoothly, a late summer 2013 debut could be in May's future.
2- Jesse Biddle, SP
The club's 2010 first round pick had a solid year one level behind May. Biddle spent the entire season pitching for Low-A Lakewood where he struck batters out at a healthy rate, 8.39 K/9, but walked too many, 4.47 BB/9. He did a tremendous job working around free passes finishing with a 2.98 ERA and a 3.38 FIP. Batters struggled reaching base via the hit sporting a .215 batting average against the southpaw.
Like May, Biddle is built to pile up innings. He is 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. He's very young, and didn't turn 20 until after the minor league season in October. Biddle's velocity on his fastball is a bit concerning. After throwing 92-94 mph in high school, he sat in the 87-90 mph range to close out 2011. Taking a glass half full approach, it could be viewed as a positive that he is succeeding in spite of his lower velocity. Taken a step further, his previous readings could be viewed as reachable since he's shown that type of velocity previously. If the velocity drop is the result of a conscious effort to better control his fastball, get used to the new Biddle, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing. The velocity he's throwing with now is plenty for a left-handed starter. Biddle also throws a plus change-up and a heavy breaking curveball. He struggles to control the curveball, and learning to throw it for strikes more often will be a big step for Biddle. He'll start in High-A, and depending on how successful he is, could see time at Double-A as well in 2012.
3- Sebastian Valle, C
Valle is a catching prospect with promise both in the field, and more important from a fantasy perspective, with the stick. Both remain works in progress. Scouting reports on Valle's offensive game are better than his results. That's not to say the results are terrible. He hit .284/.312/.394 with five home runs and 26 extra base hits in all in 348 at-bats playing in High-A. His 13:84 walk-to-strikeout points to an impatient hitter. His age, 21 years old, make that unsurprising. If it all comes together, Valle could be a solid fantasy catcher that hits 15-20 home runs with a palatable batting average during his peak years. He'll open in Double-A, where advanced pitchers could take advantage of his aggressiveness. If he moves a level at a time, he'll reach the majors as a 23/24 year old in 2014.
4- Larry Greene, OF
Greene was selected in the supplemental first round in June's amateur draft. He's not quite a bat only type, but he's pretty close. He's just fast enough now to fake it in the corner outfield. If he loses a step, he'll be first base or designated hitter bound. Greene has contact problems, and will need to iron them out if he hopes to succeed in pro ball. With all the negatives illuminated, there was a reason the Phillies spent a supplemental first on Greene, and that's his plus to plus-plus raw power. His power was enough to convince the Phillies he was worth gambling on. Home run pop at Citizens Bank Park is a pretty ideal combination, and makes Greene worth following.
5- Jon Pettibone, SP
Pettibone lacks star potential. He has a high floor though, and a good shot at reaching his mid-rotation ceiling. Pettibone had an outstanding year in High-A. He pounds the strikezone, 1.90 BB/9 and 3.38 K/BB.
Pettibone's stuff doesn't blow scouts away. He throws a 90-94 mph four-seam fastball, curveball, slider, changeup and was introduced to a two-seam fastball in 2011. His change-up is his best secondary pitch. It is a plus pitch that sits in the 81-84 mph range. His curveball and slider are below average to average. If either breaker develops into a strikeout weapon, Pettibone would immediately become a much more interesting prospect. He'll start the year in Double-A.
Bonus- Maikel Franco, 3B
Franco has a chance to be a big mover on prospect lists. He turned 19 on August 26, and already has 122 pro games under his belt. He has the glove to stay at third base, which is a plus for his fantasy value. Franco struggled in his first taste of full season ball at Low-A Lakewood, but played well in the New York-Penn League hitting .287/.367/.411. His 10.9 percent walk rate, and his 13.1 percent strikeout rate were excellent. He only hit two home runs in 202 at-bats, but added 17 home runs and a triple. He projects to hit for more power as he matures, and should also hit for a plus average as well. His struggles in 17 games at Lakewood will earn him a return trip there to start 2012. He'll still be young for his level, and he's a few years from reaching the majors.
Top 5 in 2012
1- Phillippe Aumont, RP
Aumont looked like a potential future closer. Those plans are dashed for the time being with the Phillies having signed Jonathan Paplebon to a lucrative multi-year deal. Think they would rather have Ryan Madson back on the one year deal he signed with the Reds? Aumont still has a chance to be valuable as a high strikeout reliever, and a source of the occasional save when Papelbon has worked too many days in a row. He could also turn into a trade chip if he shows himself well in high leverage non-closing situations.
After getting jerked between starting and relieving in 2010, the Phillies finally stuck him back in the pen full-time in 2011 and he took off. Aumont's command and control are below average, but should be good enough in a relief role. He throws two plus-plus pitches, a sinking 93-96 mph fastball that touches 98 mph and induces groundouts, and a swing-and-miss curveball. Faulty mechanics are a concern with Aumont. He missed time with a shoulder injury in 2011, and could be an injury risk. Working in the bullpen should help limit the risk to a certain extent. Owners in leagues that count holds should add Aumont to draft cheat sheets as a sleeper.
2- Justin De Fratus, RP
De Fratus is a lot like Aumont in the sense he has a good enough two-pitch combination to work in high leverage situations. He throws a mid-90s fastball and a slider, and also throws a change-up on occasion, but it is easily behind his fastball/slider combo. His control is much better than Aumont's, 2.41 BB/9 in Triple-A, but his ceiling is lower. He threw four innings for the Phillies last year, and is a safe bet to break camp in the bullpen. He may start in a middle relief role, but he has the goods to work his way into a late inning non-closer role. He's another holds league sleeper, and a possible ratio booster.
3- Austin Hyatt, SP
Hyatt's lack of elite stuff hasn't prevented him from playing at a high level to date. In 28 Double-A starts he produced a 2.86 BB/9, 9.97 K/9, 3.85 ERA, and 3.76 FIP. He has a flyball batted ball slant, and that could hurt him pitching in Citizens Bank Park. He mixes an 87-92 mph fastball, slider, and plus changeup to get hitters out. He'll start in Triple-A, and likely be amongst the first names called upon if the Phillies rotation suffers an injury or two. As Vance Worley, Kyle Kendrick, and J.A. Happ have shown, opportunity is half the battle in being fantasy relevant for a period of time.
4- Michael Scwhimer, RP
Scwhimer dominated Triple-A hitters in 2011 and earned 14.1 innings of work with the parent club, where his strikeout rate remained high (10.5 K/9 in the majors after 11.38 K/9 in Triple-A). His low-90s fastball, slider, and change-up profile best in a middle reliever gig. He is way down the late inning pecking order, so his fantasy value will be limited to holds leagues and NL-only leagues where middle relievers are rostered.
5- Sebastian Valle, C
Valle is unlikely to reach the bigs this year, and perhaps next year. There are almost no other choices for inclusion though. Freddy Galvis has a special glove, and a utility infielder bat. Ty Wigginton should serve as a reserve around the infield. The outfield is full, and Domonic Brown doesn't qualify as a prospect anymore. The pitching prospects have been covered, and that leaves only an injury to Carlos “Chooch” Ruiz open the door to a prospect making a fantasy impact. Even in the event of an injury, the Phillies are likely to look elsewhere, but the Giants surprising promotion of Hector Sanchez last year indicates crazy things can happen. Sanchez's stay was short, but the fact he got a look was reason enough to inspire confidence in me including Valle here. The Phillies are built to win now, so whatever gives them the best chance to win can't be ruled out.